As students work through Pre-Algebra, Geometry, Algebra, and Calculus courses, you’ll show them plenty of real-world problems. One increasingly relevant topic that likely doesn’t come up in a day-to-day math class? Cybersecurity. In this two-part series, students will use number patterns to crack simple codes that are reflective of the encoding practices internet giants have taken on in password and data encryption. As you set the stage for this activity, encourage your class to research companies that have been victims of recent hacking schemes. This will make the math behind cyber protection that much more meaningful!
Your students have probably heard of—and shopped at—Under Armour, Delta Airlines, Panera Bread, Macy’s, Forever 21, Sears, and GameStop.
If your students research these companies and other giants, they will likely find that all of these companies have been victims of massive hacking schemes. Hackers have infiltrated the private information of countless customers over the past two years. Many other companies have been affected as well. Make a list of your class’s research findings on the board to show just how widespread hacking has become!
Consumer passwords, credit card numbers, identifying information, addresses, and more were released to malicious third parties due to hacks on the databases that these companies use. Even tech-giant Amazon has not been immune to information breaches in the 21st century. Thus, the relevance of online safety cannot be understated. Online safety is such a tricky, relevant topic that annually we celebrate Safer Internet Day in the United States to raise awareness not only about mindful online activity, but also about steps we can take to prevent unsolicited information sharing. Ask your students about their experiences with staying safe on the internet. Surprisingly—or maybe unsurprisingly to some—staying safe in the digital age has a lot to do with math.
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